Listed below are U.S. states and territories formally authorized by their legislature, judiciary, and/or executive branch to provide offender risk and needs assessment (RNA) information to the court to inform decision-making at sentencing (updated as of June 2018). The provision of RNA information to the court is one component of an evidence-based sentencing process.
= Legislative branch authority
= Executive branch authority
= Judicial branch authority
Included in this list are jurisdictions in which evidence-based sentencing practices are governed by formal policy or legislation. Not included in this list are state policies or legislation that call for the use of RNA information by probation or other agencies, but that do not explicitly direct those agencies to provide RNA information to the court to support an evidence-based sentencing approach.
If you have information about your state not captured below, please help us keep the list accurate by sending an email with a brief description to Pam Casey.
(a) When directed by the court, a probation officer shall fully investigate and report to the court in writing the circumstances of the offense, criminal record, social history and present condition of a defendant through use of a validated risk and needs assessment, as defined in Section 12-25-32. No defendant, unless the court shall otherwise direct, shall be placed on probation or released under suspension of sentence until the report of such investigation shall have been presented to and considered by the court; provided, however, that after conviction the court may continue the case for such time as may be reasonably necessary to enable the probation officer to make his investigation and report.
For all probation eligible cases, presentence reports shall also contain case information related to criminogenic risk and needs as documented by the standardized risk assessment and other file and collateral information. The report shall also contain the officer’s recommendation for supervision and treatment services based upon the convicted person’s documented criminogenic risk and needs when authorized.
Circuit courts in AR's Columbia, Ouachita, and Union counties are piloting the Alternative Sentencing (formerly Smarter Sentencing) program, which is authorized by state and local administrative orders. In this program, offenders are sentenced to conditions of community supervision and services based upon their individual needs and risk for recidivism as determined using an offender risk and needs assessment tool.
Began in 2009 and completed in 2015 to take a more detailed look at the implementation of EBP, including the use or RNA at sentencing. Undertaken in collaboration with the Chief Probation Officers of California. From final report: Notably, CalRAPP jurisdictions that routinely request presentence investigation (PSI) reports and supplemental reports in felony cases realized decreases in the proportions of felony probationers who were sentenced to prison and jail, suggesting that the use of evidence-based PSI reports at sentencing proceedings and evidence-based supplemental/violation reports at violation proceedings (i.e., those that include RNA information or recommendations based on RNA information) results in improved felony probationer outcomes compared to the use of evidence-based supervision practices alone. . . .Taken as a whole, this study’s findings suggest that improved offender outcomes and reductions in recidivism can be achieved through an informed, practical, and collaborative approach to the implementation of EBP, including both the use of evidence -based PSI and supplemental/violation reports and effective supervision and case management practices.
(1.9) Each presentence report shall also:(a) Include the results of an actuarial assessment of the offender's criminological risks and needs.
Colorado Legislative Council Staff Issue Brief #12-38
All reports are also required to include the following: “…an actuarial assessment of the defendant's criminological risks and needs….”
The presentence investigation should include administration of an objective risk and needs assessment instrument, and should note wherein the judicial alternatives of the court and appropriate conditions of supervision may play a role in the rehabilitation of the offender as a law-abiding citizen.
In Malenchik v. State, the Indiana Supreme Court unanimously upheld the use of risk and needs assessment information in the sentencing process.
(3) Sentencing judges shall consider:
(a) Beginning July 1, 2013, the results of a defendant's risk and needs assessment included in the presentence investigation; and
(b) The likely impact of a potential sentence on the reduction of the defendant's potential future criminal behavior
A. The presentence investigation validated risk and needs assessment tool and evaluation report may be utilized by the sentencing court prior to determining an appropriate sentence, in order to evaluate the defendant's risk of committing future offenses and to reduce the recidivism of the defendant.
B. The presentence investigation assessment tool and evaluation report may also be used to determine eligibility or suitability of the defendant for any available specialty court.
- §46-18-111: court must consider the presentence report prior to sentencing if one has been completed
- §46-18-112: presentence investigation looks at a defendant’s characteristics, circumstances, needs, and potentialities, as reflected in a validated risk and needs assessment; presentence report to be prepared by probation and parole officer who has completed required RNA training
- §53-1-203: state DOC is required to regularly validate the risk assessment tool and use it to drive supervision and correctional practices
Probation officers complete a research based, actuarial assessment on each offender that helps to identify specific risk and need factors. Factors explored include past criminal history, family history and family support, educational and employment history and current status, alcohol/drug or mental health concerns, and overall attitude regarding the offense. Officers work through the assessments to not only identify concerning factors, but also areas of strength for the individual.
Supreme Court Rule 32 specifically mentions risk assessment in the following terms: “the presentence report may contain any previous criminal record of the defendant and information about the defendant's characteristics, including family, educational, and social history, employment history and financial condition and circumstances affecting the defendant's behavior which may be helpful in imposing sentence or in the correctional treatment of the defendant.”
The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction selected the Ohio Risk Assessment System (ORAS), which assesses both recidivism risk and needs.
Ohio Revised Code §5120.114 (A)
The department of rehabilitation and correction shall select a single validated risk assessment tool for adult offenders. This assessment tool shall be used by the following entities:
(1) Municipal courts, when the particular court orders an assessment of an offender for sentencing or another purpose; (2) Common pleas courts, when the particular court orders an assessment of an offender for sentencing or another purpose; (3) County courts, when the particular court orders an assessment of an offender for sentencing or another purpose.
Ohio Judicial Conference Policy Statement
In 2015 the Ohio Judicial Conference adopted a Policy Statement that contains “Guiding Principles for the use of ORAS and Risk and Needs Assessment Tools.” The policy statement acknowledges that its three guiding principles were adopted directly from the NCSC Guide.
Amended in 2018 (see Senate Bill 689)
A. On and after March 1, 2000, for each felony offender considered for any community punishment pursuant to the Oklahoma Community Sentencing Act, the judge shall, prior to sentencing, order an assessment and evaluation of the defendant as required by law.
B. The risk and needs assessment and evaluation instrument designed to predict risk to recidivate approved by the Department of Corrections, shall be required to determine eligibility for any offender sentenced pursuant to the Oklahoma Community Sentencing Act. The completed assessment accompanied by a written supervision plan shall be presented to and reviewed by the court prior to determining any punishment for the offense. The purpose of the assessment shall be to identify the extent of the deficiencies and pro-social needs of the defendant, the potential risk to commit additional offenses that threaten public safety, and the appropriateness of various community punishments.
Yamhill County, Ore., is a pilot site of the National Institute of Corrections’ Evidence-Based Decision Making Initiative. As part of that effort, Yamhill includes risk and needs assessment information in its presentence reports.
(a) General rule.--The commission shall adopt a sentence risk assessment instrument for the sentencing court to use to help determine the appropriate sentence within the limits established by law for defendants who plead guilty or nolo contendere to or who were found guilty of felonies and misdemeanors. The risk assessment instrument may be used as an aide in evaluating the relative risk that an offender will reoffend and be a threat to public safety.
(b) Sentencing guidelines.--The risk assessment instrument may be incorporated into the sentencing guidelines under section 2154 (relating to adoption of guidelines for sentencing).
(b) In preparing presentence reports in accordance with § 40-35-207, the department of correction shall include information identifying the defendant's risks and needs as determined through the use of a validated assessment instrument, along with recommended treatment programs to address the risks and needs and enhance the defendant's opportunity for successful reentry into the community.
Tennessee Code Ann. §40-35-210
(b)(8) Court must consider “the result of a validated risk and needs assessment conducted by the department and contained in the presentence report” in determining the defendant’s sentence.
(f) “A sentence must be based on evidence in the record of the trial, the sentencing hearing, the presentence report, the validated risk and needs assessment, and the record of prior felony convictions filed by the district attorney general with the court, as required by §40-35-202(a).”
As a component of the Travis Community Impact Supervision (TCIS) initiative in Travis County, TX, offender risk and needs assessment information is incorporated into a diagnostic report that is provided by the Travis County Community Supervision and Corrections Department (CSCD) to the court for the purposes of informing sentencing decisions about community supervision and treatment intervention strategies.
(a) The department [of Corrections] shall establish supervision and presentence investigation standards for all individuals referred to the department. These standards shall be based on . . . (ii) the results of a risk and needs assessment.
Utah Sentencing Commission’s Adult Sentencing & Release Guidelines
The guidelines explicitly adopt an “Evidence-Based Sentencing Framework“ (pp. 4-11), identify an offender’s classification by a validated assessment as low risk to reoffend as a mitigating circumstance under its sentencing guidelines (Form 2), and prescribe that “completed criminogenic risk and needs assessment(s), scores from validated tool(s), compliance with court orders prior to sentencing, aggravating and mitigating factors on Form 2 and/or Form 4, as well as the impact of incarceration upon risk to reoffend should all then be considered in determining the final recommendation to the court” with regard to the amount of jail time to be served as a condition of felony probation in sentencing (Form 5).
West Virginia Code refers to the use of a standardized risk and needs assessment adopted by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals in several places (e.g., §62-12-6, Powers and duties of probation officers; §62-15-2(1), Drug Offender Accountability and Treatment Act; §62-11A-1a (g), Other sentencing alternatives).
West Virginia Supreme Court Policy Directive
Beginning August 1, 2013, each felon in circuit court will be administered a risk and needs assessment test known as the LS/CMI (Level of Service/Case Management Inventory) before sentencing. The results of this assessment will be available for the circuit judges' consideration prior to sentencing.
After a conviction for a felony, the Court may order the Department to prepare a Pre-Sentence Investigation (PSI). The PSI format is located in COMPAS and is the only format that may be used. . . . Each PSI includes the following language: In addition to identifying general levels of risk to re-offend, COMPAS also identifies criminogenic needs specific to that offender which are most likely to effect future criminal behavior. For purposes of Evidence Based Sentencing, actuarial assessment tools are especially relevant to: 1. Identify offenders who should be targeted for interventions. 2. Identify dynamic risk factors to target with conditions of supervision. It is important to remember that while risk scores may assist in informing sentencing decisions based on the risk principle to target medium and high risk individuals for intervention, they should never be the sole and deciding factor in determining the severity of the sentence or whether an offender is incarcerated.
Wisconsin Supreme Court Case: State v. Loomis
In State v. Loomis, the WI Supreme Court unanimously upheld the use of the COMPAS in the sentencing process.